7 july 2020

Central Asia news

Latin alphabet in Uzbekistan: difficulties of transition

04.06.2007 12:05 msk


Interview Uzbekistan

Ferghana.Ru continues its series of publications on transition to the Latin alphabet in Uzbekistan. Why would the authorities order it? What are the pros and cons of the new alphabet? Who is the Latin alphabet being incorporated into everyday life? Answers to these and other questions are given by Uzbek scientists, political scientists, public characters, and journalists.

Journalist Aziz Maksumov: Reasons and motivations are political, that much is clear. This transition is supposed to make the barrier against Russia all the more sturdier. I suspect that the matter was discussed during the very first visit of the Turkish leader here who told Tashkent by way of friendly advice to make a transition to the Latin alphabet as another indication of independence from Moscow and a means of sparing the people harmful influence of Marxism and everything else associated with the Northerners.

A period of sobriety followed. After all, several generations of the Uzbeks had learned the Cyrillic alphabet and abandoning it was proving extremely difficult for them. It became clear as well that Turkey had failed to live up to the expectations, and the transition to the Latin alphabet became relaxed.

As for the latest developments when the authorities all but belayed their previous order, it was outright stupid. Philosopher Berdayev thought that 15 years was a wholly new generation. We've had a whole generation of kids studying the Latin alphabet at schools. The situation is tricky indeed. Return to the Cyrillic alphabet is not the answer of course because a whole generation will have to be taught anew, but enforcing the transition will be a mistake.

In any case, I do not see any punishments, pressure, or whatever. We have what we have - few media outlets are using the Latin alphabet as it is. In movies, however, all titles are given in the Latin. It's difficult, you know, for everyone but the young. Consider myself. I studied foreign languages once and therefore know the Latin alphabet. It is difficult even for me whenever I see a slogan or advertisement. When they were all in the Cyrillic alphabet, a mere glance enabled me to grasp what it was about but not anymore. They are in the Latin nowadays, and it takes time. In other words, it takes much longer now. Besides, the Cyrillic alphabet to a certain degree means an integration, restoration of ties with the neighbors using this alphabet, and ties with CIS countries. In short, the transition to the Latin alphabet is going to be a lengthy process, a process taking decades.

I'd say that the authorities will recommend a more thorough study of the Russian language and Cyrillic to try and make the people equally conversant in both Latin and Cyrillic. It will probably be the best. So far, we have only wasted time and made very many people illiterate. One of the best advanced and literate Central Asian states once, Uzbekistan is anything but nowadays.

Human rights activist Abdillo Tajiboi ugli: The transition was a stupid move. It is not something that will make the Uzbeks any more literate. Only school textbooks are in the Latin alphabet now. Students of colleges and universities learn by the textbooks in the Cyrillic. Therefore I believe that we should abandon the Latin alphabet if we want out children to be literate. It should be done step by step, with scientists consulted every now and then. My acquaintances send their children to Russian-speaking schools. My own grandson goes to one. No need to give official status to the Latin alphabet to make studies of foreign languages easier for the young.

Political scientist Gulsara Vafayeva: This transition to the Latin alphabet was a wrong move. Had it been the Turkic alphabet, it would have been different probably, but no such alphabet exists. I believe that it was a stupid and reckless decision, one attributed to someone's ambitions. If you ask me, this transition did not avail us anything. Turkey alone of all Turkic-speaking countries was using the Latin alphabet once. Try as I might, I cannot perceive a single reason for Uzbekistan to make the transition. It was not what I call a considerate decision. We'd better abandon it. I'd say that the harm already done by transition is not irreversible yet. We'd better revert to the Cyrillic alphabet. The Latin has never been our alphabet, I do not see any sense in sticking to it.

Marat Zahidov, Director of the Uzbek Department of the World Database for Education and Scientific Exchange (Strasbourg): Our policy was definitely pro-Western in the early 1990's, and transition to the Latin alphabet was another step bringing us closer to West Europe and the United States. I'd say it was a wrong idea. We fumbled it, you know. Consider letters X (as IKS from the Latin) and H, for example. In short, everything was formal and thoroughly irrational. As a result, we have a whole generation of illiterates now. Both alphabets are being used now even though the variant of the Latin we adopted does not fit the Uzbek language. The Cyrillic alphabet was different from this standpoint, it was all right. There are 26 letters in the Latin alphabet and 35 in the Uzbek Cyrillic. The more the letters, the better it is.